|3/5/2021 10:16:00 AM|
Second half frenzy leads to CL comeback win
North Branch made a few too many of the same mistakes that they’ve made often this year, and it set the stage for a big second half comeback from Chisago Lakes in the team’s second match up of the year on Tuesday, February 23.
North Branch got some early big three pointers from Trevor Johnson that paced them to a lead over Chisago Lakes, and the Wildcats were having a tough time finishing around the hoop despite some good looks in close.
Midway through the first half, North Branch’s Logan Murphy, who handles the ball a ton for the Vikings, went down with an ankle injury, and things looked like they might turn in favor of CL. But, Johnson’s shooting, paired with Carson Klein’s penetrating offense, kept North Branch out front. They eventually took a 39-32 lead into halftime, and looked to beat Chisago Lakes for the first time in a handful of years.
At the start of the second half, it was immediately clear that Chisago Lakes had made some adjustments on both sides of the ball. Their trap on defense got a lot more aggressive, and that led to two quick baskets for CL to start the second half.
On the offensive side of the ball, the ‘Cats started to feed low-post animal AJ Koehler. Not only has Koehler been CL’s leading scorer the past two years, North Branch just doesn’t have anyone to size up with him in the post, and as they started to feed him more, that became evident.
Another factor driving Koehler was that he was on pace to score his 1,000th career point, and if he couldn’t do it at home, doing it on his biggest rival’s home court was a sweet consolation prize.
As Koehler’s looks started to fall and the stats started to pile up, he helped the ‘Cats overtake the scrappy Vikings. With CL up by four, Koehler got down low for an easy lay up that gave him the career milestone. Chisago Lakes’ Head Coach Josh Flug immediately called timeout to allow Koehler a minute to celebrate with teammates and the fans that were allowed into the game.
But, the ‘Cats still had to fend off North Branch, who wasn’t about to let the moment ruin their night. Two straight possessions with a Johnson three pointer got the Vikings to within a single possession.
They did get a chance to tie or win the game with a very short time on the clock, but a North Branch turnover was tossed down the court to Koehler, who threw the ball as high as he could in the air to burn the rest of the time on the clock, giving CL the dramatic win.
Not only did Koehler pass the 1,000 point mark, he had a monster individual game with 22 points, 26 rebounds, five assists and three steals.
Reed Marquardt had a strong supporting game with 16 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals. Noah Lasiuta scored 13 points with six rebounds and five assists and Everett Appleby chipped in 11 points.
On North Branch’s side, Johnson scored 26 points and Klein had 17. Gabe Huset added seven. The game highlighted North Branch’s inability to finish out close games. In their 10 losses, seven of them have been within eight points, and four were single possession games. They’ve only won one close game, an 81-79 win over Becker.
North Branch went to Big Lake earlier this week as they embark on their last two weeks of regular season play. They’ll host Princeton on Thursday, March 4. They are one of the only Mississippi 8 Conference teams that have played tight with the Tigers this year, losing 93-87 in early February. On Saturday, March 6, the Vikings will take on Zimmerman before heading out to St. Francis on Monday, March 8.
The ‘Cats, who are now 8-4 and in third place in the Mississippi 8, have only two conference games left. They traveled to St. Francis on Tuesday, March 2 before three straight non-conference games. They’ll be at Kasson-Mantorville on Thursday, March 4, at Hill Murray on Saturday, March 6 and host Mora on Monday, March 8.
They’ll finish their season with a home game against conference-leading Princeton on Saturday, March 13.